I began my local food journey back in 2010. I was newly married and my husband happened to see Food Inc. on PBS. I was out with friends that night and when I came home he relayed what he had learned about our industrialized food system. I was so surprised that there was so much stuff going on behind-the-scenes and that I never had even thought about it. I decided right then that I would do everything I could to be a more mindful shopper. But, I had no idea where to begin.
My first stop was the winter farmers market at Traders Point Creamery in Zionsville, Indiana. I had never been to a farmers market before and I was uneasy about it. Did I need cash? What would I expect to find there? How much would it cost? Would they be annoyed by my questions? My first visit to the market involved me basically jogging through the market, quickly surveying the scene and talking to no one. I didn’t buy anything. But, the next week I showed up with cash, my checkbook, some shopping bags and some questions. After I got over the initial nervousness, I found the local food scene to be welcoming and I learned so much.
Over the years, I learned that small-scale sustainable farms are serious business. The farmers and families that back them up are all in. Their lives are inextricably connected to the land and the seasons. They live and die by sunshine, rain or the lack of it. So many factors are outside their control. I’ve laughed and sympathized with farmers whose cows escape the pasture or whose pigs break through fences and run amuck. I’ve held my breath watching news reports of tornados and downpours that threaten crops and the livelihood of my friends – the same friends that put food on my table every night. And, I’ve celebrated with them at farm dinners or local restaurants after summers of back-breaking work. The connection I feel to my food has grown so deep because of these relationships.
When we buy food from farmers we know, we benefit and so do they. We get fresher, tastier food and the great feeling of keeping money in our community to support people who are doing good work. By selling directly to the local community, farmers get a chance to build relationships with the people who buy their food and to see the impact of their hard work. You can’t get that from a mail-order meal box or an online food delivery service.
Buying local isn’t about convenience, it’s about conviction. It’s about what matters to you. I feel so lucky that my husband and I discovered this way of eating. I didn’t know in the beginning how dramatically the change would impact my life. I had no idea I would end up with an award from the producers of Food Inc. for my sustainable lifestyle or that I would come to lead a Slow Food group. And, most surprisingly, I didn’t realize how my health would be affected. I didn’t know that switching to locally-sourced whole food would help me heal. But it did. As a 20-something fast-food loving American, I already had asthma, allergies, eczema and other auto-immune problems. I was taking at least 6 drugs a day to treat my many symptoms and some nights I couldn’t sleep because I couldn’t catch my breath. Today, I don’t have any of those issues. I don’t take any meds. I just eat real food. Grown by my friends and neighbors.
And, I’m not the only one that has changed! Local food is changing too. Silverthorn is now offering more flexible purchasing options than ever and you can get pastured meats, honey, dairy and other local products from their store May-January. And, more and more farms are finding ways to make ordering and pick up easier. It’s hard to compete with the technology and scale the big guys have to work with. But local farmers are doing their best and I appreciate the effort.
All year round, but especially in the summer, I love sitting down to a meal filled with fresh veggies and I take an extra moment to give thanks to the hands that grew that beautiful food. And it is so much more powerful when you know who those hands belong to. I am so grateful to Nate and Emily for being a part of my extended food family. And I can tell you from first-hand experience that when you buy from them – they are equally grateful for you. Join me in supporting them by buying more of your food from local farms. It’s an easy first step that makes a big impact!